Extended autobiographical monologues are a characteristic of the performance art genre known as “monologue theatre.” Monologue theatre is a type of performance art that is based on the presentation of extended autobiographical monologues, usually performed by the artist themselves. These monologues can be comedic, dramatic, or a combination of both, and often explore themes of identity, relationships, and societal issues. Monologue theatre has been used as a tool for self-expression and social commentary, and has been employed by various artists and performers over the years.
At the theateran monologue (in Greek: μονόλογοςfrom μόνος mono“alone, solitary” and λόγος logos“speech”) is a speech delivered by a single charactermost often to express their thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the public. Monologues are common across the range of dramatic media (play, filmsetc.), as well as in non-dramatic media such as poetry. Monologues share much in common with a number of other literary devices, including soliloquies, apostrophesand asides. There are, however, distinctions between each of these devices.
Similar literary devices
Monologues are similar to poems, epiphanies and others, as they involve a ‘voice’ speaking, but there are differences between them. For example, a soliloquy involves a character relating his thoughts and feelings to himself and the audience without addressing any of the other characters. A monologue is a person’s thoughts spoken aloud. Monologues are also distinguished from apostrophes, in which the speaker or writer addresses an imaginary person, inanimate object, or idea. The asides differ from each other not only in length (the asides are shorter), but also in that the asides are not heard by other characters, even in situations where they logically should be (for example, two characters involved in a dialogue interrupted by one of them making an aside).
In ancient Greek theater, the origin of Western drama, the conventional three-actor rule was preceded by a two-actor rule, which was preceded by a convention in which only a single actor appeared on stage, along with the chorus. The origin of the monologue as a dramatic device, therefore, is not rooted in dialogue. It is, rather, the opposite; the dialogue evolved from the monologue.
Ancient Roman theater featured monologues extensively, more commonly than ancient Greek theater or modern theater. One of the main purposes of these monologues was to indicate the passage of significant amounts of time (which would be tedious to actually run in real time) within scenes. This type of monologue is called a liaison monologue. Other types of monologues included “input monologues” and output monologues. In each of these cases, a primary function is to indicate the passage of time.
From Renaissance theater onwards, monologues often focused on characters using extended speech to meet their dramatic needs. Postmodern theatre, on the other hand, often embraces the performative aspects of the monologue, to the point of challenging the boundary between character representation (eg acting) and autobiographical discourses.
Interior monologues involve a character externalizing his thoughts so that the audience can witness experiences that would otherwise be primarily internal. In contrast, a dramatic monologue involves one character talking to another character. Monologues can also be divided into the lines of active and narrative monologues. In an active monologue, a character is using his speech to achieve a clear goal. Narrative monologues simply involve a character telling a story and can often be identified by the fact that they are in the past tense.
Actors in theater, and sometimes film and television, may be asked to give monologues at auditions. Audition monologues demonstrate an actor’s ability to prepare a play and deliver a performance. These pieces are usually limited to two minutes or less and are usually paired with a contrasting monologue: comic and dramatic; classic and contemporary. Choosing monologues for an audition often depends on the play or role.
- dramatic monologue
- internal monologue
- one person show
- performance poetry
- Stand up comedy
- spoken word